Cuba -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Cuba
Currency: Cuban peso
Religions: Catholic (85 %), Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, others
Population: 11 423 952
Land Area: 110 860 sq km
Landforms: : The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains.The mountains and eminences occupy a quater part of its land area.At the southeastern end passing through the Caribbean is the main mountain chain Sierra Maestra, a range of steep mountains whose highest point is the Pico Real del Turquino at 1,975 meters. The low southern partñ of the island are part of the limestone Carribean Plate, where the peninsulas of Jucatan Mexico, Florida and Tha Bahamas are also located. The longest river in Cuba is Quioto which runs in direction east-west, 20 km north from the city of Bayamo, and is navigable only for small boats.
Land Divisions: 14 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 special municipality* (municipio especial):Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Cienfuegos, Ciudad de La Habana, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Isla de la Juventud*, La Habana, Las Tunas, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara. The provinces are further divided into 170 municipalities.
Cuba -- History --
Christopher Columbus arrives at the island in 1492. The word “cuba” in Taino language means centre. In 1512 Diego Velazquez de Cuellar conquers the whole island and the building of the first villages begins. The first Spanish city is Nuestra Asuncion de Baracoa. In 1762 Britain conquers Havana, but a year later the French-English-Spanish Peace Treaty makes Cuba Spanish, as in return Spain gives Florida to Britain. At the beginning of the 19th century independence movements start to taka place. Some people want reforms, others independence and others incorporation to USA. The first significant rebellion begins in 1868 and is led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, but it ends in 1878 because of inner contradictions between the rebels. Then on the horizon appears Jose Marti and he achieves the abolition of slavery. In 1895 breaks the second war for independence and in 1902 the United States handed over control to a Cuban government that as a condition of the transfer had included in its constitution provisions implementing the requirements of the Platt Amendment, which among other things gave the United States the right to intervene militarily in Cuba in order to keep the country stable. In 1934 the Platt Amendment is repealed and then Cuba gains full sovereignty. In 1933 Fulgencio Batista realises militar take-over and later wins the president elections with the participation of the Cuban Communist Party. After 1948 under the president reign of Ramon Grau and Carlos Prio Socarras the corruption and the influence of the American mafia increase. In 1952 Batista makes a new take-over, but that time he doesn’t want the return to the constitutional order and as a result a strong opposition is formed. At the head of one of the opposition groups is Fidel Castro, who goes to Mexico and organizes a rebellion there together with Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Despite the rebellion’s failure in 1956, Fidel Castro succeeds in reorganizing his military forces and continues the struggle. As the corrupted system of Batista is inconvenient for the United States, Fidel Castro receives serious moral and financial help from the Americans. By 1959 the whole Cuban country is on Castro’s side and he becomes a prime minister. Despite his promises, Fidel Castro doesn’t carry out new democratic elections and doesn’t restore the constitutional order in the country. The whole power is in the hands of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. In 1961 Fidel Castro announces the communist character of the Cuban revolution. A total nationalization begins and the private commerce is prohibited. A totalitarian type of communist government is introduced. Under the direction of Ernesto "Che" Guevara concentration camps are built for oppositionally-minded people. After the disappearance of the USSR and the “world socialistic system” Fidel Castro has to bring in some reforms. These are limited and concern mainly the economy and more precisely the foreign investments. On 31st July 2006 Fidel Castro “temporarily” gives the power to his brother Raul Castro for reasons of health. On 24th February 2008 The National Assembly elects Raul Castro president.
Cuba -- Economy --
The economy of Cuba is a largely state-controlled, centrally planned economy overseen by the Cuban government, though there remains significant foreign investment and enterprise in Cuba. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and most of the labor force is employed by the state. Capital investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The Cuban government sets most prices and rations goods to citizens. The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political control. It has rolled back limited reforms undertaken in the 1990s to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. The average Cuban's standard of living remains at a lower level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. Since late 2000, Venezuela has been providing oil on preferential terms, and it currently supplies about 100,000 barrels per day of petroleum products. Cuba has been paying for the oil, in part, with the services of Cuban personnel in Venezuela, including some 20,000 medical professionals. In 2007, high metals prices continued to boost Cuban earnings from nickel and cobalt production. Havana continued to invest in the country's energy sector to mitigate electrical blackouts that had plagued the country since 2004. Main agriculture products are sugarcane, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans; livestock.
Cuba -- Culture --
The culture of Cuba is a complex mixture of different, often contrasting, factors and influences. Cuban music is the basis for many other Latin American musical styles, such as salsa, jazz, Argentinian tango and Spanish "nuevo flamenco" . The main musical form is Son. The roots of most Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, a form of social club among African slaves brought to the island. Religion influenced Cuba's music with its inherent part - percussion. Each orisha, or deity, is associated with colors, emotions, Roman Catholic saints and drum patterns called toques. Several Cuban-born composers of "serious" music have recently received a much-deserved revival. Fidel Castro's belief in socialism and the benefits of sports has resulted in Cuba's relative international success in sporting events Unlike in most of Latin America football is not a major game in Cuba but is gaining popularity. Baseball is the most commonly played game and boxing is also rather popular.Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.Cuban literature began to find its voice in the early 19th century. Notable writers include Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda and Cirilio Villaverde. Following the abolition of slavery in 1886, the focus of Cuban literature shifted. Dominant themes of independence and freedom were exemplified by Jose Marti, who led the modernista movement in Latin American literature. Writers such as the poet Nicolas Guillen focused on literature as social protest. Others like Dulce Maria Loynaz, Jose Lezama Lima and Alejo Carpentier dealt with more personal or universal issues. And a few more, such as Reinaldo Arenas and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, earned international recognition in the postrevolutionary era.
Cuba -- Life style --
Cubans are different from all their Caribbean neighbors in one important respect: they combine the southern joy of life with a northern work ethic and intellectual ability that makes them unique achievers. Education is Cuba is free and universal. Cuba has one of the highest proportions of university graduates in the world. Although Cubans are hard pressed to find books, visitors will discover that Cubans are sophisticated, highly knowledgeable, and erudite. Education is highly politicized, seen as a key tool to instill communist thinking. The University of Havana may be the only school of higher education with a monument of a military tank. Despite the importance that Cuban families and the government place on education, motivation is becoming a problem, as students drop out of universities and vocational schools because they see little point in becoming a professional when waiters, guides, and pimps make more money. Unemployment may be preferable to jobs that pay little or are so boring. Cubans are indulgent with their children. Family bonds are strong. Cuba could be the paradigm for "family values". Parents don't just take their children to and from school, they will travel across town to bring them a daily "merienda", snack or lunch. Cubans will share whatever they have with their families, neighbors, and even visitors. The predominance of the family, however, does not mean, an inhibiting moral code. Cuba is a sexually permissive society. Promiscuity is widespread. Both sexes are unusually bold. Cubans enjoy coquetry, and men and women frequently exchange suggestive overtures. Overt eyeing of an attractive women is expected, probably intended and even welcomed. Fidel has said that Cuban women don't walk, they sway. One writer summed it up: for both sexes, seduction is the national pastime.
Cuba -- Political system, law and government --
The Republic of Cuba was defined as a socialist republic by the constituiton. The Communist Party of Cuba is the "leading force of society and of the state". The first secretary of the Communist Party, Raul Castro, is concurrently President of the Council of State (President of Cuba) and President of the Council of Ministers (sometimes referred to as Prime Minister of Cuba). Members of both councils are elected by the National Assembly of People's Power.The President of Cuba, who is also elected by the Assembly, serves for five years and there is no limit to the number of terms of office. The Supreme Court of Cuba serves as the nation's highest judicial branch of government. It is also the court of last resort for all appeals from convictions in provincial courts.Cuba's national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular), is the supreme organ of power and has 609 members who serve five-year terms. The assembly meets twice a year, between sessions legislative power is held by the 31 member Council of Ministers. No political party is permitted to nominate candidates or campaign on the island. Other political parties campaign and raise finances internationally, while activity within Cuba by oppositional groups is minimal and illegal. While the Cuban constitution has language pertaining to freedom of speech, rights are limited by Article 62, which states that "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to... the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law." Because the means of production are in the hands of the state and under the control of the government, there have been numerous cases where violations of this law have cost dissidents their employment. Members of the Communist Party Cubans participate in the community-based Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, which play a central role in daily life. These groups are designed to coordinate public projects, ensure that the population remains loyal to the government's specific brand of socialism, and act as neighbourhood watchdogs against "counter-revolutionary" activities.